This meal prep guide will give you a step-by-step formula to master meal prepping.
I meal prep lunches for myself and my husband every Sunday. We're extremely busy during the week and sometimes we just don't have time to throw together a lunch in the morning or on a weeknight. By putting time aside every Sunday, we save so much money and we ensure we're eating a healthy meal every day.
I've been meal prepping for just myself since college, but once I started meal prepping for myself and Nick, I was overwhelmed. He's a big guy and eats a lot of food, and I was cooking for hours and hours every Sunday to prep our meals.
Nobody wants to spend hours meal prepping. Over time, I've developed some shortcuts and compiled tips and tricks to get your lunch meal prep time down to one hour or less! This meal prep guide will help you save time and money while still making delicious meals.
By using the following formula for your meal prep, you will be in and out of the kitchen in no time!
Your meal prep base is the first thing in your container. You have two basic options: greens or grains. Some weeks I'm in a salad mood, so I buy a big container of mixed greens and use that as my base. But you could use romaine, kale, or whatever green is your favorite. Or, go half and half, with greens and grains.
For grains, you have so many options! Pasta. White Rice. Brown Rice. Quinoa. Any grain is good. One of my favorites is quinoa for lunch. I always cook my quinoa in chicken stock to give it more flavor, and I find it a versatile base for meal prepping.
Your protein selection is important. I like to keep my protein consistent throughout the week so I can limit my spending. I typically stick with chicken, but ground beef, chickpeas, tofu, or any other protein favorite is great.
We like marinating chicken for an hour and then throwing it on the grill or in the oven. I also love these Crispy Chickpeas as a protein when you're trying to change things up.
The Extras - here's when you can get creative. I normally use veggies as my extra in meal prepping. But veggies can be prepared so many different ways. Eat them raw, grill them, saute them.
If I'm making salads, I usually just cut vegetables up raw and add them for more flavor. If I'm making quinoa bowls, I like to roast peppers and onions in the oven and add them to my lunches. This part is really up to you for what you want to add to your meals.
Toppings - here's where you can change things up. If you're someone that doesn't like eating the same thing for lunch/dinner every day, toppings are a great way to keep the same base of the meal but change toppings to give you diversity.
Here are some ideas of toppings for your meals:
- Simple olive + sesame oil dressing
- Tzatziki sauce
- Green Salsa
- Chopped Peanuts
- Cilantro or Italian Parsley
Meal Prep Strategy
Before you even start cooking - you need to go to the grocery store. Following the steps above, pick out the base, protein, extras, and toppings you want on this week's meals and write them out. Then, create a shopping list and get shopping!
Once you have your groceries, it's time to get cooking.
So how do we actually cook 5-10 quality and healthy meals in one hour? There's definitely a strategy. Think about how you can multitask and also utilize your appliances efficiently. You don't want to make things more difficult than they need to be.
You want to start with what's going to take the longest. Are you making a grain that takes 30 minutes to make on the stove? Start with that, and while it's simmering, you have 30 minutes to chop and roast veggies or grill chicken.
If I'm making a quinoa based bowl, I start with getting quinoa cooking on the stove. While I wait for it to come to a simmer, I chop my veggies, put them on a pan, and get them in the oven. During the 20-ish minutes it takes for the quinoa and veggies to cook, I'm grilling chicken. Because I multitask efficiently, I'm able to accomplish cooking the three major players in my meal in under 30 minutes.
When I've cooked all the food, I need to wait for it to cook about 10 minutes before I get it in containers. During this time, I lay out all the containers on the kitchen counter.
Then, I get my toppings ready. When the food is cooled a bit, build your meals in the order of base, protein, extras, and toppings.
I hope you found this meal prep guide helpful! Mastering meal prepping doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming. It's a great tool to use for saving money or eating healthy. What are some of your tips? I'd love to learn how you save time meal prepping!